Hi everyone! Last December 2-3, 2017, I finished my longest and most challenging road run to date in Amihan 50K Road Ultra. To be honest, I really underestimated it because I thought that this is just a full marathon with an added 8KM and that I could totally do it because I ran my first 42KM with an injured ankle and still managed to finish it. Little did I know that there is more to ultramarathons than just the added distance.
Note: An ultramarathon is simply a run more than a full marathon (42KM). Usually, distances would range between 50KM-100KM.
Nonetheless, this run was also one of the most memorable because of the new people I met and my newfound knowledge on the difference between a marathon and ultramarathon.
Read on below for the full story.
It was my friend and running buddy, Tristan, who invited me to join this run. Initially, I was hesitant because I do not get to train like I used to. However, I remembered my promise last February of having a revenge 42KM run so I decided to just go with it, after all, I would technically cover 42KM there anyway – and so I signed up!
As part of my training for this race, I made sure to find time to go to the gym (at least twice a week) for my indoor LSD runs. Furthermore, I also joined Pinoy Fitness 21K Challenge and TakboPH 20 Miler 2017 last November for my outdoor LSD runs. Little by little, I became confident of being able to finish this distance up until race day – Yup, talk about pre-race jitters!
Tristan and I were at the venue in Paseo de Sta. Rosa around 9:00PM where we claimed our race kits, met our friends and got ready for the gun start. It was my first time to wear so many gears too because aside from they were mandatory, I had to make sure I can properly take care of myself in case of any emergency because the aid stations were at every 5KM.
Tristan and I pre-race
Running friends pre-race
Sai, Tristan and I before gun start!
James, me, Tristan
When it was just a few minutes away from gun start, all the runners positioned themselves at the starting line and soon, everyone was already running. At first, the route was along the highway where we passed Solenad and Nuvali. We made a right turn somewhere on what seemed to be the “road less traveled” because of the tall grasses all around, the absence of street lights and the occasional non-cemented road. I remember telling Tristan that I will never run an ultramarathon alone because I got scared. Lol.
I also remember how I struggled with the steep uphill during this part. I ran the first few instances of inclined roads at the beginning but as they got steeper and steeper, Tristan and I decided to walk during ascents and run during descents – it felt like I was hiking a mountain, only that, the trail was a cemented road. It was also during this part when we encountered our other friend, James, who was just in a 21k run that same morning and who happen to be the 2nd placer for the male category! It was surprising that he still had the energy to run an ultramarathon that same night. But because he already used up most of his energy, he just wanted to take it nice and easy for the 50k and thus resulting to his decision of pacing with Tristan and I (because our pace was also nice and easy).
Eventually, we got out of the dark road into a lit highway which signified that we were already at Silang, Cavite. It was a really, really long stretch of highway up until the 25th kilometer where we stopped for lugaw!
When we left KM25, we did not immediately run to give time for our bodies to digest the food. Eventually, as the breeze got cooler, we found out that we were already in Tagaytay. It was funny because we passed by establishments, like Starbucks and Coletts that I already went to…by car. Lol. Around the 31st kilometer, I already felt my legs getting tired which must be because of the rolling terrain of the first half of the route. I was torn between sitting down to rest and continuing to run.
All of us set goals on when to start walking and when to start running again. Initially, it was through distance reached, i.e. 1.5km of run and 500m of walk. But when my GPS watch ran out of battery, we depended on landmarks, i.e. walk as soon as we reach the second street light and run again when we reach the red signage. Lol. It was funny because it pushed us (well, mostly me because both my companions are already strong runners) to meet our goals. We took turns in setting the landmarks to make it more fun even though our legs were obviously not having fun.
Another thing that I took note of was the fact that there was no road closure so we really had to be cautious of the incoming traffic – especially since the time we were running was also the window time for the travel of massive trucks. Every now and then, we had to slow down or stop running to give way to these trucks because we were running on the road as well, following the white line on the side. Because of this, everyone was just in a single file, overtaking only when there were no incoming cars.
The 40th kilometer was another lugaw station where my companions enjoyed another bowl. I decided to use this time to rest my legs as I waited for them to finish eating. We only had 10 kilometers left and yet it still felt so far to me because of how tired my legs were. But then again, we took it one step at a time, taking turns between running and walking until we reached a runner’s support vehicle around the 44th kilometer. He offered us boiled bananas and soda to which I did not decline because who declines kindness, right?
The sun began to rise when we were at the 46th kilometer and it was a beautiful sight to see as we ran that we stopped for a bit to admire it (and to remove our headlights and place it inside our bags). With only four kilometers left, we decided to push more to be able to finish the run before the sun becomes too uncomfortable.
I was very happy to see Solenad and Nuvali again because that meant we were already near the finish line! Adrenaline also started rushing in as we entered Paseo that my companions overtook one runner towards the finish line. Thinking that I NEED to place after them, I used up all my remaining adrenaline to also overtake him to the finish line.
Finally, we were done with the 50-kilometer run! Marshals hung medals around our necks and handed us our finisher trophies as well. We also took photos with the Finisher Streamer before heading to the event area to cool down, change clothes and eat.
Running an ultramarathon is really not a joke. Even though I already ran a full marathon, the environment of an ultramarathon is really different not just in terms of distance but also in the vibe that it gave. Here is my take on the difference between a regular marathon and an ultramarathon:
Short distance will feel longer. As I have mentioned above, even though we only had ten or even five kilometers left, it felt really long to me because of the exhaustion caused by the terrain of the route.
Equipping different gears is advisable. Unlike a regular marathon where I only need my race bib and running belt (for my phone) to run, during an ultramarathon, I really need a headlight, hydration vest, first aid kit, reflective vest and snacks to make sure I can take care of myself in case of an emergency.
Aid stations are farther apart in ultramarathons. Unlike in regular road runs which have aid stations every 1.5km, an ultramarathon will have lesser aid stations every 5km. This means that we have to be able to be able to support ourselves longer by bringing our own hydration bottles along with us.
No road closures in ultramarathons. While I am used to road closures during every run, I was caught off-guard during this ultramarathon because it was like a regular training run, only that, it was along a busy highway where I had to constantly be wary of cars and trucks.
Ultramarathons play with elevation gain and loss a lot. While runners only have to worry about two flyovers in Roxas Boulevard and/or Kalayaan Flyover during regular road runs in Metro Manila, ultramarathons will go beyond that by giving little to extreme ascents every now and then. There are no ultramarathons in Metro Manila as well because, well, runners do not like out-and-back/repetitive routes.
Ultramarathons feel more relaxing than marathons. With lugaw stations and support vehicles, ultramarathons feel less competitive than regular marathons. To be honest, this is where I met the most number of people in a running event. The ultramarathon vibe felt more like a community.
Thank you to my running buddies for this event, Tristan and James for never leaving me and for keeping me company pre and post run. Congratulations to us and I hope to run in more events with the both of you!
To Sai and Tupe, thank you for the good company as well. Congratulations to the both of you for finishing strong and for waiting for us to finish the run!
To sir Jeff and the Amihan Team, thank you for organizing this so well. I enjoyed my first road ultra and I am definitely going to do another one next year.
To the photographers, sirGlairold and Active Pinas (sir Ronald and sir Eric), thank you very much for the great photos!
Lastly, to the Lord, for giving me the strength to finish the entire distance safely.
I remember vowing to reach greater heights and distances for 2017 and I am extremely happy to have completed an ultramarathon for the last month of the year! This experience made me realize that indeed, it takes more than physical strength to finish demanding activities like this. It also takes mental strength and puso to keep pushing forward even though the body is tired.
Thank you very much for reading and until the next race!